KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia is well-positioned to benefit from the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), which has a population of over 600 million people and a combined gross domestic product of US$2.3 trillion, says Sports and Youth Minister Khairy Jamaluddin.
Speaking at the Bumiputera Economic Action Council-Majlis Amanah Rakyat luncheon here today, he said Malaysia’s entrepreneurs have proven their potential, especially in banking, oil and gas and aviation, citing CIMB and AirAsia.
Khairy said Malaysia ranked sixth on the World Bank’s “Ease of Doing Business” index last year, proving the ability of the country’s entrepreneurs to face regional challenges.
Malaysia’s chairmanship of the regional body this year will test the mentality and competitiveness of Malaysia’s entrepreneurs, especially Bumiputeras, to be able to move to a higher level, he said.
“It would be a great waste if Malaysia did not use this opportunity to the utmost extent.
“Malaysia’s domestic market is small, and to generate greater wealth, to create more sustainable development, we should look at opportunities beyond geopolitical boundaries,” he said.
The AEC’s biggest benefit to Malaysia is a market that is 20 times bigger than the country’s domestic market, while a single ASEAN market has various strengths, including hosting the world’s biggest producers of palm oil, rubber and sukuk, as well as the world’s largest Muslim population, he said.
The region also ranks third in the world for rice production, natural gas, smartphone penetration and coal production, he added.
Khairy said Malaysia’s chairmanship of ASEAN this year gives an advantage to Bumiputera entrepreneurs, what with the government’s frequent announcements of its commitment to aid small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
The AEC is also a platform for Bumiputera SMEs to prove their capabilities, he said, adding various efforts have been taken to aid them, from channelling loans through Perbadanan Usahawan Nasional Bhd to the programmes by Teraju, SME Bank and Amanah Ikhtiar Malaysia.
But all the opportunities brought by ASEAN and the government assistance schemes would come to nought unless the entrepreneurs work hard, are competitive and have an open mentality, he pointed out.
Khairy stressed that amid the government’s efforts to aid Bumiputera entrepreneurs particularly in facing stuctural obstacles, the government’s policies and initiatives should move away from giving props to the entrepreneurs to empowering them.
“Only then can we produce a generation of global entrepreneurs, not just village champions,” he said. – BERNAMA